Valley Wide Help, an information and referral progam of the American Red Cross of the Greater Lehigh Valley, has expanded its hours of operation from 8:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays.

Valley Wide Help offers callers information regarding social and other human services located in Carbon, Lehigh and Northampton counties and beyond. The program is free and confidential. Calls are handled by trained information specialists with access to a database of nearly 1,000 local, state and national social service agencies. Accessibility of information and referral services throughout the greater Lehigh Valley is ensured through the availability of six telephone numbers, along with bilingual services to Spanish-speaking callers, a text telephone system for the hearing impaired and through Internet access.

"In today's economic climate, we are getting a greater number of calls for information particularly about emergency shelter, energy assistance, food banks and rental assistance," said Cordelia E. Miller, who oversees the program for the Red Cross of Lehigh Valley. "By expanding our hours, callers will receive the information they need at the time of their call, rather than waiting for the next business day. In addition, we are now able to conduct follow-up calls to ensure that an individual's needs were met and if not, the reasons why not. This information will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of existing community service providers and to indentify any gaps in community services."

She added, "Bottomline, our community benefits. We are grateful to the Community Action Committee of Lehigh Valley for providing the funding through the Community Services Block Grant."

The program received nearly $84,000 through the special funding to hire personnel, purchase software, update its database, expand its hours and provide comprehensive resource directories and outreach materials.

Last year 45,135 people were assisted by phone or accessed the program web site for information.

The program can be reached at (610) 435-7111. Bilingual services are provided through a Spanish line at 610-866-1089. Hearing impaired callers are serviced through an on-site text telephone system (TTY/TDD) at (610) 866-0131. Internet users can access the Valley Wide Help database at www.irissoft.com/vwlp.